Thursday, 31 March 2011

Men in Sheds

Looking around I am often heartened by people getting together to help us to live on less, and have fun meeting people and sharing at the same time. Recently we have reported about Freegle for free goods, Ecomodo for borrowing stuff, Liftshare for sharing cars and there are many more.

I have recenty started gardening and my only implement was a trowel - which is of limited use when major weeding and soil digging is in order! I was going to put out a 'wanted' on Freecycle and then to my delight I came accross 'Men in Sheds'.

I was able to purchase a reconditioned spade and fork for a total of £12. They were of a quality that even I knew would cost at least six times that, new. And they came with a full guarentee that should there be any problems, they would be repaired or replaced.

Men_in_sheds_poster

Here is a little more about them:-

This facility was established in 2010 as an Age Concern Exeter activity.

It was primarily identified and set up to offer a facility to men of a certain age where they could meet for a few hours a week, in the familiar age old environment of their sheds and workshops.

The objectives, in no particular order of priority are:

  • To meet other kindred spirits
  • To refurbish and renovate tools and garden equipment so they are no longer rusty, redundant, and forgotten but refurbished and perfectly workable items, either to be assembled and donated or other charities and organisations, both in UK and Africa, or to be sold to raise money for Age Concern.
  • To enjoy a fine selection of tea and biscuits
  • To refurbish and bring back to life tools and equipment for local people for a small donation
  • To discuss the local and global situation and put together our suggestions for setting the world to rights.

Our progress and development over the last few months has been considerable but we are still looking for two main things:

  • Men of a certain age (over 50) who think they would enjoy spending a few hours a week in this environment and who would like to help us renovate these tools for a good cause.  (experience and skill levels are not important)
  • Donations of old, rusty, redundant tools and equipment, no matter what size, shape or condition, which Men in Sheds can turn into proper functional items which will be used and cherished for another generation or so

If you like the sound of this, or know someone (males only) who would enjoy or benefit from a few hours involvement then please get in touch, come and meet us, see what we do and how we do it, and at least take advantage from our tea and biscuits.

In the first instance contact Jessica Cohen at Age Concern (01392 202092)

So if you are in Devon and are seeking out some good tools at low cost, or want to find a home for the tools in your shed that never see the light of day - you know what to do!

 

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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Mother's Day Magic

Picture_316
Mothers Day is approaching, the pressure is on to delight your Mother. The shops are full or 'solutions' for you. Say it with flowers, a meal out, a pretty gift, chocolates, perfume or a silk scarf.

The shops will tell you to treat your Mum to their products. And it's hard to resist their message when you really love your Mum. But this is an occasion, when it really is the thought that counts. 

What most mothers want is your Presence - not your Presents. 

If you are able to be with your mother and give her time, attention and love, that is far more valuable than anything you can buy. Do jobs for her, make her lunch and most of all give her a big hug. Most Mums love chocolates, flowers and presents but all that pales to insignificance against the joy of a bit of quality time with the person or people in whom they have invested limitless love and care.

If you can't be with her, then a phone call, an email, a text, a letter to show you have been thinking of her.

I am both a Mother and a daughter, so, like for many, I can see the day from both sides. My children have 'fled the nest' now, and I love to hear from them and better still see them. But like many Mothers I do my best not to make demands or apply pressure. I am delighted that they lead busy, full lives.

As a daughter, I think each passing year teaches me more and more how precious my Mother is and how much she has done for me and loves me.

Mothers and children do not always get on. There is the fight for independence and freedom in the teenage years and we often hold passionate but conflicting views of the world. And yet the common bond of love, protection and family enables the relationship  to flourish admist the discontent.

So buy your Mother a gift, within your budget, if you wish. But you know the best things in life are free - and there is rarely a gift so completely free as a Mother's love.

 

 

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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Influential or what?!

Social Media Influence

 

Klout

Peer Index

Feb 2011

March 2011

Feb 2011

March 2011

MoneySavingExp

62

62

43

41

ThisisMoney

57

56

58

59

Zerocredit_UK (Klout via hootsuite)

51

52

57

57

CitizensAdvice

48

51

35

38

TheMotleyFoolUK

47

47

n/a

n/a

CCCSPressOffice

47

45

38

40

Moneyaware (CCCS)

46

48

28

47

MoneyMagpie

41

41

n/a

12

CreditAction

39

39

33

5

NASMA_UK

38

38

n/a

n/a

AdviceUK

30

30

20

20

Money_Advice (MAT)

29

28

n/a

n/a

Payplan

22

24

n/a

n/a

Cash not Cards

In shopping in my local market this week I reflected on the fact that I have to use cash for my purchases here, and I normally take only enough cash to pay for what I expect to buy. I will allow £2-£3 in that budget to buy something that I hadn't planned for but there is little room for impulse purchases and, since they don't take debit or credit cards, I am limited to spending only what I have.

Sometimes that is disappointing because, of course, I often see something that I would like, but cannot have. If I could pay by card I may very well have justified it to myself and bought it.

However, once I am home with my purchases I generally forget all about that item, after all, I got all that I went for.

There is research that shows that spending real money often results in spending less. People are reluctant to break into £20 notes so think harder before they do so. I, personally, hate spending £2 coins and keep them in my purse as long as possible.

Supermarkets of course know most of us use cards to buy, and therefore tempt us with extra purchases.

A student I know, recently realised financial gloom lay ahead as he was overspending every week. The solution? He gave himself a budget and switched to a cash only lifestyle. If he doesn't have the money in his pocket, he can't spend it. And the result is he is now on target to have some money left in his bank account at the end of the year.

The message - if you want to cut your spending use cash. Work out how much you can spend on food and other items each week and take out that amount from the bank. 

We would love to hear from anyone who has successfully changed to a 'cash only' lifestyle.

 

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Monday, 21 March 2011

When fear drives us more than hunger?

This superb short film (click play essay) profiles some of the 2/3 of eligible pensioners in the US who don't claim support with food costs.

Meanwhile, here in the UK, regional and national news keeps commenting on the spikes in demand for foodbanks.

Earlier last week, CCCS published its 2010 debt statistics, profiling the people who had called on the charity for support. Echoing our own work exploring Debt Advice Trends, there is increasing concern about older people falling into poverty and debt - and as the graphic below shows, the burdens shouldered in later life are often far greater.

Zero-credit is shortly to examine older people's experiences of personal debt and would like to hear from anyone who wishes to share their stories with us. If you or someone you know would like to speak to us, please email zerocredit.comms@gmail.com. Thanks.

 

CCCS Debt & Age

Provided by cccs.co.uk

Friday, 18 March 2011

We're all going on a Summer Holiday??

Picture_448

Studland Beach, Dorset

Spring is the air and holiday time is approaching. How to holiday on a budget.

1. Book your holiday outside of school holidays if at all possible. It's much chepaer

2. Book a short break. If a week is out of your budget, consider a short break of 3 or 4 nights.

3. Don't travel very far. With petrol and transport costs going up, see what wonderful places are in just a 50-100 mile radius. In this wonderfully varied country of ours, there is bound to be a good place to visit.

4. Go self-catering. You have the option to eat in some or all of the time, so you don't have expensive restaurant bills.

5. Prepare your meals in advance. For a couple of weeks before you go, cook twice as much as you need and freeze the extra to take with you for a good value ready-meal.

6. Plan your visits. Check out what is free in the area you are visiting.

7.Plan for rainy days with DVDs and books from the library. Take a pack of cards and a board game.

8. Budget for one or two meals out that don't cost the earth. Go out for breakfast instead of dinner, or have fish and chips in the park or on the beach.

9. Thoroughly explore the local area where you are staying rather than being tempted to drive a further 30 miles to visit a tourist attraction.

10.Take a bag of sweets, crisps or biscuits and a thermos of coffee or cold drink when you are out and about, so you will be less tempted by ice-creams and expensive refreshments.

 

 

 

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Google, Advertising and Cookies

Google
When you search on Google, Google knows what you search on and ensures that advertising that displays on the screen is appropriate to your interests! Scary eh?

Now I never consciously look at the adverts around me on the internet but I have started observing them more - and there is often logic to what they try to sell me. 

It is however possible to edit your preferences on 'interest-based advertising' - or opt out altogether by going to http://www.google.co.uk/privacy/ads/

Now I don't know lots about this subject so I'm hoping that some people more technical than me will be able to throw more light on the subject, but I wanted to highlight the tracking google does on your searching because I think its important that people are aware it is there, and how it might be used.

It's really similar to loyalty cards - by taking one you are consenting to a shop knowing all about your shopping habits and therefore direct coupons and discounts that are relevant. 

I am really keen to get more comments and information on this one so that people can learn to better control the information they have on, what should be, their 'personal' computer.

 

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??148.22 per benefit claimant lost?

Peston122x110

 

BBC Business Editor, Robert Peston shared the RBS bonus payout with us all yesterday: £375 million.

83% of RBS is owned by the taxpayer.

The company is still making a loss - £1.67 billion in 2010.

Earlier this week we learned that unemployment has risen to 2.53 million, the highest level in 17 years.

Unsure of the division of labour accountable for national loss making, we thought we'd try to calculate the drain on our economy.

 

375,000,000
÷  2,530,000
-------------------
             148.22

Forgive our lack of financial capability - being incompetent debtors and all - but isn't that just over two weeks of unemployment benefit for every single person claiming?

 

 

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Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Great Big Earth Dig

Tgbedpeeps
I am increasingly delighted and inspired by  the groups of people who are getting together to help each other, learn a new skill or share and swap what they have. So when I heard about The Great Big Earth Dig I just had to write about it.

A group of people have got together to work on an allotment, plant veg and share their produce. They are learning, growing, making new friends and being partly self sufficient. They are inspiring people everywhere to start digging for March 20th - Spring Equinox - when the earth has an equal day and night.

Tgbed

They have about 30 members locally currently but, increasingly they have had support from all over the UK. There is an exciting growing interest in community groups of this kind.

You can join in whever you are - just go to www.thegreatbigearthdig.co.uk and get digging!

Simon (@shyman33) says 'We've had a great response so far from our local community.We wrote an article for our local community magazine www.chessingtonchat.com January issue which increased awareness of our little idea. We've lots of encouragement through Twitter where we are nearly up to 1000 followers.

We are on various websites and facebook pages and are excited to be included on UK Aware website, the number one green living show. We've had a few celebrity comments and RTs including SuePerkins from bringing the good life back, Dick Strawbidge, Lisa Faulkner, Ortis Dealey, Bee Strawbridge. We've also had a few mentions on BBC radio London and LBC 97.3 from Anne Diamond,Jenni Barnet and Ken Livingstone. Also B and Q, and Prince Charles' Start project have given us great encouragement.

We have increased the number of friends, neighbours and family giving help to our little plot this year.Starting with the great Big Earth Dig this Sunday. We have about 30 people in our little team, probabaly encouraged by the temptation of this year's first BarBQ.' 

If you have been inspired by The Great Big Earth Dig, do let us know.

If you are part of a group of people who are doing something wonderful (however large or small!) get in touch. Developing community and sharing is a great way to learn to live creditfree! And if community groups share their experience and ideas, give support and inspiration, together they are a formidable body of experience, skills and goodwill!

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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Cutting the Cost of a Shave


Shaving

Cut the cost of shaving with this wonderful homemade shaving oil.

Guest post by Damien Austin-Walker of Time Bank

@b33god on Twitter

I switched to shaving with oil rather than foam many years ago. Probably around the same time a brand of shaving oil called King of Shaves appeared on the scene. I find it so much more effective for a smooth shave. And I loved King of Shaves.

It didn't go unnoticed that the containers were small and the price fairly high. Around £20 per 100ml. Though I have seen some other makes at around £5 per 100ml. However, assuming a litre of petrol costs £1.30 then petrol would be 13p per 100ml. Is shaving oil taxed?

Homemade shaving oil recipe

100ml of grapeseed oil (or other massage base oil)  £3.29  or Sweet Almond oil £2.55

Oils are from Essential Oils Online

Tea Tree Oil £2.03

Orange oil  £1.53  

Pepermint Oil £3.04

Lavender Oil  £3.05

Rosemary Oil  £3.04

£1.95 Delivery

Total £17.19

I have an old spray bottle from a spray bottle of 'Cariad' shave oil I bought in a supermarket before they stopped selling it (similar to this 'lady' version). You may have something similar. Fill that half full with the grapeseed or base oil. Otherwise use the base oil bottle itself, just give someone a massage first to create some room in the bottle for the essential oils.

I add Tea Tree oil first, about 3 drops. Tea tree is an antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal. Good stuff!

Then 2 drops of Orange. This cuts through the oil and makes it less greasy, Bergamot or mandarin has a similar effect and can be used instead.

2 drops each of Rosemary and Lavender, both soothing and relaxing. If you want to cut costs further just choose one of these, you don't really need both (I'm just flash).

1 drop of peppermint oil. Nice and refreshing. Don't add too much!

Give it a shake and there is your shaving oil. A good tip is to keep some base oil back, pour half of it into another container, that way if you over dose with essential oils you can lighten it up again. Don't add too many drops of each essential oil at first, you can always add more after each shave till you get a balance you like. But you can't take it away if you add too much.

All the above oils come to £17.19  But once you have bought the oils they will last for years - you only need to keep buying the base oil each time you run out.

(the same oils at Holland & Barratt come to £25.74. However they often have sales where you can pick up the oils for much less)

When I started making my own oil I only used Tea Tree and Lavender oils, I then slowly added to my collection over the years which helped spread the cost.  It is a long term saving, but it's fun to do and if you clubbed together with friends or gave bottles of homemade oil as Christmas presents it could be even more worthwhile.

 

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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Mandatory Work Activity ??? a means to an end

Gbw

Maybe you agree with the new Mandatory Work Activity, maybe you don’t. Can we set our politics aside for a moment?

Recently, we posted a piece about a new Jobseeker instructed to apply for manual labour, despite considerable professional experience and which, if successful, would end those insurances that protect his borrowing repayments from unemployment. In short, the likely outcome of such a reduced income would be personal over-indebtedness. Annie Shaw of Cash Questions pointed out that there was a market for insurance to start protecting against such circumstances. It is protection, which interests us here.

Last Summer, we posted news of significant changes to the Arriva bus services around the villages where Zero-credit is based – several were cut. Those of you who have known us for some time will be aware that we are about as Middle England as you can get, less than a mile from the geographic centre of the country. Within a thirty mile radius, there are three airports, countless motorways, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Coventry city centres - you’d be forgiven for thinking the high speed rail link was designed for people like us.

Yet, as April approaches we are expecting another change, which sees our community in fear - the possibility of a reduction in service from hourly to two hourly, between Coalville and Burton-upon-Trent. There are no other destinations. These are our hub towns, access to all other areas is from these. As it stands, the last weekday bus from Coalville is at 18.00, from Burton at 18.30. Jobs in any town these might connect to and jobs with out of office hours are lost by the lack of transport home. Get Britain Working? Get Britain to work, more like.

When we supported campaigns to prevent Arriva from changing the service last summer, we were met with embarrassed and ineffectual support. The 1985 Transport Act allows commercial operators to take any statutory route and run the service pretty much as they please. The pockets of village cut out by the last service update are now served by local authority taxi – a two hour round trip twice a week, bookable in advance to satellite towns, Ashby and Swadlincote, where local people may shop. 

Shopping is great when you have the income to do it. But when public transport legislation is such that communities may not access any of the employment, education or healthcare opportunities which enable them to contribute to their economy, there is nothing for it but to question this institutional benefit fraud.

 

Swishing - Fashion for Free!

Crediton_swishing

The scene before the swishing began!

I went to my first Clothes Swapping event on Saturday. It was in Crediton, Devon. It was inspirational! Amazing number of people and clothes. See the picture to get some idea of size - and that's only showing about half the clothes.

I went with a friend who was not only looking for clothes she could wear, but clothes made of great fabric that could be used to make a bag, cushion cover or be turned into a new item of clothing.

Between us we took 18 items. What did I get? A 'new' scarf. I love scarves as they can add interest to any outfit. I got a top that I will turn into a shopping bag, and a Jaeger wool jacket which I am going to give to someone. I will write about the bag when I make it.

I will also ask my friend to take 'before' and 'after' pictures of alterations or transformations she does with the clothes she acquired.

Would I go again? I certainly would! It was fabulous - a real buzzy and friendly atmosphere too! It's great to think that all these clothes that are rejected by their owners will get a new lease of life with other people.

If you are on a budget it's such a fabulous way to replensih your wardrobe.

And nothing will go to waste. The 'leftovers' will got to charity ships, clothing banks or the 'rag man' depending on its quality. Nothing will go to landfill.

If you see a swishing event in your area, I urge you to go - or just arrange an informal clothes swap amongst your friends. If you don't have any clothes to swap you can buy items of clothing. In this case it was just £1 and item.

The organisers of this event - Sustainable Crediton - will be running another event the same in the future - a testimony to its success.

Please tell us about your swishing experiences.

 

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Sunday, 13 March 2011

Freegle - the great way to get free stuff

Guest post by Cat Fletcher of Freegle Brighton

Freeglelogo_whitebg
Freegle is an online network of recycling groups that facilitate the reuse of goods amongst members of a community – all for free. There are 299 groups spread all over the UK and they are  run by local volunteers. While this is a fantastic way of keeping usable things out of skips, the tip, incinerators and bins it is of course also a fantastic system for getting things for free!

There are 1,163,804 Freegle users who are already giving away and getting things for free – you could start freegling and help the environment, your pocket and your local community all at once.

So how does it work?

Well, first of all you need to see if there is a Freegle group in your area. To do that, use our postcode/town search here: http://www.ilovefreegle.org/groups/

Members of a group offer goods via email or web posts and connect to other members who can make use of them. No money changes hands and everything must be legal. If you see something offered you want, you contact the member, make arrangements and then it can be yours. Most groups do not allow messages about animals, labour or advice – there are other specific websites for such things.

The Brighton group (GreenCyclesussex)

The Brighton Group has just over 15,000 members and up to 500 messages are posted each week. There are 2 volunteers helping new members learn the ropes, and ensuring that all goods offered are legal (so no firearms for example) and ensuring things run smoothly and to sort out any technical hiccups behind the scenes.

In the 4 years I have been doing this in Brighton we have had a wild assortment of stuff given away. Things like: Books, TVs, computer equipment, clothes, cars, sports equipment, office machinery, DIY materials, tools, washing machines, furniture, beds, plants, fridges, kitchen stuff, food, compost, lawnmowers, removalist boxes, CDs, cameras, pet accessories, school uniforms, electrical goods, toys, kayaks (we once had a 27ft yacht given away), mobile phones, bric-a-brac and so on and so on…..Goods are sometimes new, sometimes broken or just plain second-hand. Messages should describe accurately the state of the goods, so you know what you are getting! Remember even if something is no good for its intended purpose and unwanted by you it may still be useful to someone else and reused in a different manner or repaired by the new owner.

Why is Freegle good?

Sometimes it is helpful to try something out before buying it new.  Or you can replace that mobile charger your pet rabbit chewed up. You may be on a tight budget, have a growing family or are moving house. You may enjoy hobbies and sport, arts and crafts, DIY, gardening, have a toy crisis or unexpected guests who need a bed. The value of freegling is endless! … Give it a try you may be very surprised at what a fantastic resource it is and how you can save money by getting things you need for free. A nice bonus is that you get to meet lots of other lovely people from your local community and get a feel good factor from reducing waste and reducing unnecessary consumerism….oh and it is all free!

Don’t throw it away! Give it away! Freegle it!

https://www.facebook.com/Freegle

http://www.ilovefreegle.org/

@thisisFreegle

 

How to Join

Once you have found a local group from our website, click on the link to go to its homepageand follow the instructions (differs from group to group).

You will find yourself a member of a Yahoo group and will start receiving emails from the Freegle group; if you are email phobic it is also possible to just use the group via the webpages and save your inbox from exploding. A lot of groups are also linked into Facebook and Twitter, so you do not always need use a Freegle group via Yahoo. It will depend which group you join but group volunteers will be able to assist you joining up and using their group especially if this is something new to you!

Goods are made available by group members posting messages of goods they have, that they no longer want- and so offer them to the group. (It is also acceptable to post messages to the group requesting items you’d like to have). If you see an offer for something you would like, then you contact that member via email or from the group webpages and if selected by that member making the offer, you will be able to have the item for free after making arrangements to collect it.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Of course if you are the lucky recipient of some free things it is nice to send a thank you email to the offerer and if you have posted a wanted message and actually received what you wanted from another member-then you can tell the group by posting a ‘received’ message to the group too.

 

 

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Boil an Egg for Less....#SundaySaver

Egg
Nothing like a boiled egg for breakfast - especially on a Sunday when you have more time.

What's the best way to boil an egg? Well when it comes to the basics - I always think Delia knows best. I read with interest her instructions to just boil the egg for a minute (Method 1)  and then take it off the heat and leave in the pan for six minutes. And you know what? It really works. I actually leave it on the hotplate, since it is still hot and then 6 minutes is plenty.

This must save about 75% of the energy of leaving the hob switched on the whole time. 

So now you can enjoy your boiled egg at a much lower cost!

 

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Saturday, 12 March 2011

Know your Rights when the Debt Collector Calls..

If you are getting calls from a Debt Collector it is important to know what your rights are and what they can or can't do. The Office for Fair Trading (OFT) have brought out this clear leaflet to help you.

 

 

Read it, Bookmark it, Print it, but have it available as a handy reference.

 

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Getting Help with Your Debts

If your debts are getting out of control, if you are borrowing in order to meet your repayments, if you are struggling to pay your rent or mortgage you need to get some support and advice as soon as possible. 

Where to turn. There are phone lines offering free advice, charities who can help and many debt advice companies where you pay for advice. How do you know which to turn to? The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) offer this clear help.

 

Read it, bookmark it, print it off. Do keep it as a handy reference for phone numbers and information. 

 

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Too broke to go bankrupt

I heard it again yesterday. It kills me inside. You see, I know that place. Terrified witless, you’ve driven yourself and your dependents into the ground because somewhere along the line, no one ever made it feel safe to deal with your debts early. You don’t even matter so much as to be declared bankrupt by one of your creditors. Your debts are paltry, a few grand here, a few grand there: destitution for you, but not enough that anyone you owe money to takes note.

I was lucky. My cousin lent me the bankruptcy fee. But what if there is no one - what do you do when you’re too broke to go bankrupt?

To the comment trolls, who thrive on “you deserve everything you get” and “I told you so”, let me just say, have you never screwed up - not even at an interview, on a date or when driving? Did you want to set the record straight or start afresh, a little wiser for your experience? 

In Britain, we are awash with the pedlars of debt denial, loans to consolidate, for payback on payday, or those seedy little envelopes promising cash for gold. The carrion of recession, these are the vultures, which feed on diversions to leave original debts unpaid. With £1452 billion in outstanding personal borrowing in the UK, there are an awful lot of people who chose to buy now pay later. Can we really afford for them all to go bust?

Call me old fashioned, but Christians Against Poverty demonstrate what’s best in their faith. Good Samaritans, who are nobody’s fool: when you need help, they give it. Responding to the growing numbers of people who are surfacing as unable to cope with the credit culture we created, CAP have plans for 150 centres by 2015. If you’re too broke to go bankrupt call them on 0800 328 0006 and they should help you out.

Another superb charity for the destitute is Charis. I met their CEO not so long ago and was bowled over with admiration. They administer funds for a number of energy and water companies, making grants to individuals who have hit a brick wall. They provide help with bankruptcy fees, energy bills and white goods even. Their commitment to getting people back on their feet is second to none. Eligibility depends on where you live and it’s a good idea to ask an adviser for help with completing your application because you need to include everything.  Charis won’t support an application that sees you falling back into arrears in a few months time.

If you’re reading this because you’re too broke to know what to do, check the guidance below from the Insolvency Service first. Bankruptcy may not be for you. Alongside the Debt Relief Order, it is a last resort. Annex A lists organisations where you may find free advice and if you find yourself opting for paid support, make sure the company is a member of either the DRF or DEMSA.

 

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Friday, 11 March 2011

Bankers' secrets revealed

All Banks are the Same ASB via youtube.com

 

Gotta love the Financial Services Club - they tell it like it is! This post about "secret gentlemen's agreements" in banking is a case in point. It's just littered with examples of anti-competitive practice.

There's only one way to stop these guys and that's critical mass - we are many and they are few - which is why Zero-credit is a cooperative.

 

 

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Thursday, 10 March 2011

Your lenders need YOU...

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In November 2010, market analyst Datamonitor published Non-standard lending 2010: New Opportunities for Alternative Lenders. Highlights of the report include the statement that:

 

The non-standard population is growing in size, as shifts towards self-employment, growing unemployment and increasing arrears combine to exclude ever more borrowers from mainstream credit.

 

If ever there was clear evidence that personal money worries are rich pickings for another's profits, this is it. The report alone costs around £1735...

 

The sheer numbers of households where income earners are under- or unemployed are the key to this exploitation. For you and me it may only be a payday loan here, or a logbook loan there to tide us over with a couple of hundred quid, but these crooks are counting on the millions who are finding it hard to make ends meet whilst being encouraged to spend.

 

At Zero-credit, we are sick and tired of the spin.

 

Whether you're right wing, left wing or slightly off the centre, whatever your hopes, beliefs of fears, indeed, whichever way you look at it: IT IS WRONG TO LEND MONEY TO PEOPLE WHO ARE UNSURE OF PAYING IT BACK.

 

Sub-prime credit brought us here and it sure as hell isn't the way out of it. The mere mention of "New Opportunities for Alternative Lenders" makes a mockery of all the Financial Inclusion, Financial Capability and Over-Indebtedness Strategies we've had in recent years. How can the Government allow it?

 

Simple... In February 2010, when reviewing the 16 debt advice projects funded by BIS through the Financial Inclusion Fund, even the National Audit Office went so far as to state that:

...there has been no attempt to evaluate the strategy as a whole.

 

What?!? People are dying because they are terrifed of mounting debts, yet Ministers and Civil Servants from both Governments have shirked all responsibility in bringing lenders to heel. 

 

If you share our view that borrowers need to be heard, there's never been a better time to join us. After 14 months of incredibly successful campaigning online, Zero-credit formed as a co-operative last August, precisely so that borrowers can and do have a say in the financial services which affect them. Whether you are up-to-date on your mortgage or up to your eyes in debt, please consider becoming a part of the Debtors' Coop.

 

When lenders need us this much, we need to stand together.

 

 

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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Making the most of Zero-credit

Creditfree

We have been publishing creditfree guides at Zero-credit since June 2009 - always free to use and free from advertising and sponsorship. Our menu classifies household spending - ranked by value of spend - using National Statistics data. The only exception is Finance because we need good money management to start any spending /saving plan.

Topping and tailing our menu are this Zero-credit home page, and Debtors Coop, a gateway to information about our cooperative, with news about our business, areas of expertise and, of course, access to the Information Service for Members and Subscribers. 

If you represent a charity or community group that tackles poverty or debt, why not contact us to share your news at Zero-credit? There’s no charge for this and very often we’ll promote what you’re doing though our other channels too. If you think your news is more suited to another section, that’s fine, just contact us and we can set up for you to post directly or through our Editor, Penny.

Our Finance section reviews products and services, which can help to manage debt. We also include commentary on financial trends affecting people in debt or on low income. This is the only category for which contributions are restricted, as we regularly receive inappropriate link requests and comments attempting to misdirect our readers. 

Within Property we include all fixtures, fittings, furnishings and fuel economies necessary to maintain a comfortable home, as well as some of the more unconventional DIY, self-build and ownership schemes such as community land trusts and low impact living. Our aim is to challenge routine spending.

From home delivery to Bangernomics, our Transport section includes a range of green and money saving travel tips, for individuals and communities. We also hope to post some DIY vehicle repair and maintenance guides soon too, so if you have any to share, get in touch

It’s a fool’s economy to cut back on enjoying life, so Leisure encompasses holidays, days out, celebrations and gifts. It is particularly popular for seasonal posts, during Halloween, Christmas and most recently Valentine’s Day, and its range of crafting and technological ideas. 

From family meals for much less than a fiver to cooking coops, food coops, bulk shopping and cleaning tips, Household is one of our most popular categories, attracting a large number of comments and contributions. Perhaps you have something to share?

Our Fashion section covers cosmetics, personal hygiene, clothing and accessories. Here we show you how to care, repair and make alterations - it’s amazing what you can do yourself! From the Spring, we aim to be vlogging a number of swishing events around the country too, so if there’s one local to you, let us know.

Welfare is there to provide anyone facing a change in circumstances with support. This could be to do with kids moving schools, coming off a private health care scheme, benefits, redundancy, tax, self-employment and job-seeking advice.  Most recently, a number of contributors have posted items relating to self-help and support groups.

Online newspapers, the annual e-book air, widescreen TV for under £200, our Communications section features IT, telecoms and audio-visual technology, which solves the problem of spending money. If you’re a creditfree computing genius, we’d love to hear from you!

 

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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

How many benefits in a Banker's Bonus?

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You won't hear this often but at Zero-credit today, we are indebted to The Daily Mail! Barclays is paying out a massive £554 million in bonuses to 231 of its staff so we thought we'd divvy that up between the 450,000 or so public sector workers who are losing their jobs as we blog...

Guess what? If every one of our Jobseekers-to-be had a share in the Barclay's pot it'd be worth £1,231.11 each - or around 19 weeks on Jobseekers Allowance. Flippin' 'eck that's food for thought on Pancake Day. Time to fix us some batter, methinks ;-)

 

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'Buy Nothing' for Lent

Lent is a Christian festival marking the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent on the desert preparing for his ministry. He fasted and prayed. Traditionally Christians have used this period as a time of learning, and preparing for the resurrection of Jesus. Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday, actually lasts for 45 days in total because Sundays are excluded from the 40 days.

In recent times, people have given up something for Lent - may be chocolate, sugar or alchohol. Whatever your beliefs, it can be a good time to reflect on, and tackle, over indulgence. 

One community group is trying out a 'Buy Nothing' Lent. Of course this does not mean buying nothing at all - food and the basics of life are allowed - and it is up to the people taking part what they define as the basics. They intend to make themselves more aware of consumerism and the temptations around them from advertising, media and clever marketing. 

If you are living with debt or on a tight budget, having a 'Buy Nothing' Lent could have a positive effect on your finances and make you aware of any wasteful spending, as you think about each purchase you make. It can also make you think about where the stuff we buy comes from, and where it ends up at the end of its life.

This is a learning exercise in doing something cost free instead of spending money - such as having friends round for a DVD sharing night instead of going to the cinema, or going for a walk instead of paying for the gym or swimming pool. One member of the group wants to make things, where possible, instead of buying, starting with a cushion cover.

The group is also practicing skills sharing.  Two members are exchanging some IT knowledge for some home cooked meals. It makes me also think of Third Thursday Club who share their produce and skils amongst themselves.

'Buy Nothing' can raise awareness of media and social pressures on having the latest thing, and empty promises about what a product can do for your life.  Spending less and saving more, relieving the pressure on finances may be far more beneficial than so called 'retail therapy'. And if on a tight budget, finding new ways to save a few ££s can be positively exciting!

Please explore this website to find new tips and ideas for frugal and #creditfree living. 

What are you (not) doing for Lent? 

 

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Monday, 7 March 2011

How to save ??????s at the Supermarket

If you shop at a supermarket regularly, use www.mysupermarket.co.uk before your next trip or online shop. I just tried it and here is the difference in price on a shopping list of many of the things I regularly buy. 

Sainsburys £42.52

Tecos £49.82

Asda £47.62

Ocado £68.31 (Astounding!!)

Clearly over 52 weeks of the year this is a big difference - over £1300!! 

It's really easy to use. Choose your usual supermarket and make a shopping list. It keeps a tally as you shop showing the cost at the four main supermarkets at the top of your list. If you normally order your shopping online, you can select to get your shopping from the supermarket that is cheapest. Or you can print out the list and take it with you to the shop.

The website will also highlight items on your list that you could get cheaper by buying a different brand or different quantity at the same supermarket. So it might encourage you to try some cheaper brands. (And if you are on a diet - you can have suggestions for some lower calorie options!)

Considering a family spends between £2500-£5000 in a supermarket each year - a little planning is well worth the effort.

Click on the image below - to see what I bought...

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If you try www.supermarket.co.uk, let us know what savings you made.

 

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Parking Tales - the Good and the Bad

A Which? article today told the story of a someone who had asked all about the parking regulations for their parked car, and then still got a ticket because the attendant had omitted an essential detail. So its important to know all the rules, and check all the notices.

However, others have reported successfully appealing parking fines, so its clearly always worth trying, particularly where your case is justified. Which? tell you how. If you have had a parking ticket recently, I strongly recommend you read this.

I recently parked on a street which I thought was free. About 30 minutes later I saw a parking attendant making out a ticket by my car, so I ran over to check. He pointed out that I was at the start of the metered parking and pointed to a sign right outside my car. Whoops!

However he said if I got a meter ticket right then he would refrain from giving me a parking ticket.Luckily I got to him before he had got to the point of no return on issuing the ticket. He must have been in a good mood, or may be he was just a genuinely nice parking attendant. But it shows that sometimes a polite enquiry to begin with can work wonders!

Which? also have reported on the relative cost of parking and the variation between cities. Worth checking out before you travel as train or bus may well work out cheaper overall!

Do you have any Parking Ticket tales, or words of advice?

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Sunday, 6 March 2011

By students, for students

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Whilst The Student Loans Company offers about the cheapest borrowing you may ever come across, sadly the same cannot be said of student overdrafts, which need to be handled with extreme care. The market for student banking is highly competitive. With an average graduation debt of some twenty thousand pounds, before even the new legislation kicks in, would you have the confidence to move your account? Student overdrafts are great for improving cash flow, but not something to keep past graduation, when interest is charged. Wealthy Student is a financial advisory site, run by and for students and providing all sorts of handy tips, discounts and vouchers. Why not check them out during National Student Money Week?

 

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Make Your Own Pancakes....#SundaySavers

It's Pancake Day on Tuesday - so get out your flour, eggs and milk - and trust Delia's recipe to make great pancakes

When it comes to making pancakes, the Supermarkets are cashing in by selling pancake mix but its at least twice as expensive - and if you only make pancakes once a year you may waste half of it. 

 With the powdered mixes you still have to add eggs and water as the mix is just flour and dried milk - and added salt which you may not want - so it's little different to making it yourself from scratch, just more costly. And a complete mix that you only add water to, only makes 6 pancakes for £1.49 or £1 if its on offer.

There is a huge satisfaction in making your own - and you can soon make more if required!

So our #SundaySaver today is to make sure you have the right ingredients in your cupboard and don't bother with the special pancake mixes on offer.

Delia's Pancake recipe

2 eggs - 30p

200ml/7floz milk - 10p

50g margarine - 12p or butter 20p

110g plain flour - 5p

75ml water - 1p

12 pancakes for less than 70p

So save money and have fun - and do send in your photos of your homemade pancakes! Perfect with lemon, sugar or your favourite filling!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4pqYfOMw2k]

 

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Saturday, 5 March 2011

DWP forcing Jobseekers into debt?

We have a Member, who has recently lost his job in the wave of public sector cuts. He signed on a couple of weeks ago and attended his first fortnightly Jobseeker's appointment last week.

Somehow, his employment officer has advised him to sign an agreement which requires him to look for the kinds of heavy manual work that he has not done for seven years, despite his entitlement to the following:

 

  • you are in the first thirteen weeks of a claim and have limited your availability to your "usual occupation"; or
  • you are in the first six months of a claim and you have restricted the rate of pay for which you are prepared to work;

 

Our Member is in his fifties and returned to education precisely so that he could gain a qualification that allowed him to work towards retirement, employed in a profession. Understandably, he is worried about the health implications of returning to heavy manual work, when this was the original reason for stopping it and when he has not done it for so long. 

For the last five years, our Member has been earning an average income of around £25kpa. He has an almost entirely continuous employment history, which includes working throughout his course to avoid student debt. He is neither used to nor comfortable with unemployment.

Whilst presenting evidence of looking for work last week, which included registering with relevant agencies, uploading reports, presentations and other examples of his professional expertise alongside a CV, he was told that he must apply for two jobs:

one in the profession for which he qualified, at £30kpa;
the other loading produce for little more than £6 an hour. 

If he does not apply for both, his benefits may be stopped. Currently entitled to claim on any Insurance or Mortgage Protection Cover he may have, what happens to these safeguards should our Member succeed with the second job application? Is he expected to lose his car, his home and credit worthiness as a result of these changes in circumstances?

Of course, we shall be helping to challenge how this particular agreement came to be made, but we'd really like to know if this an isolated incident, or whether there is a wider trend towards bullying the thousands of new jobseekers into applying for work which pays well below their means. Are we in an era of enforced insolvency as well as one of austerity? Please do share your experiences with us in the comments section below.

In the meantime, for anyone facing redundancy over the coming weeks and months, we suggest you visit the Turn2Us website featured in our Welfare section earlier this week so you can check all of your benefit entitlements before you claim. It is also an idea to take a copy of these Jobseeking restriction entitlements to your initial appointment.

 

 

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Friday, 4 March 2011

Something for the Weekend... Frugal Friday

As Friday afternoon draws on and the weekend approaches - here are a few ideas to enjoy the weekend, but not overspend

1. If you go out for a meal, drink tap water with your food, and enjoy a bottle of wine and/or coffee later at home. You may save up to a half of a bill that includes drinks.

2. If going out for a meal seems too much, go out for afternoon tea and cake or even for a leisurely breakfast! You still get the togetherness and atmosphere, and great food - but not the expense. 

3. Go for a walk, with friends, with an organised group, or alone to get some valued 'me' time.

4. Love books and reading? visit your local library, and join if you haven't already - low cost DVDs and CDs too.

5. Have a 'bring and share' - where your friends all cook and bring a part of the meal - more fun and tasty than eating out. Needs someone to co-ordinate so you don't end up with six puddings... On the other hand a Pudding Party sounds great!!

6. Swap DVDs - take it turns to buy the latest releases and swap them amongst a group fo friends - or at work.

7. If you are having a DIYweekend - try Ecomodo rather than buying tools and equipment.

8. Cut down on meal costs - try a recipe in our Family Meals for Much Less than a Fiver series in 'Household'

9. Find free places to visit on - http://dofreestuff.com/

10. Get together with friends or family and play an old-fashioned board game - see what you have in your cupboards.

Have fun - and do tell us about your #frugalfriday tips

 

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